Friday is Dec. 7, which is not just another day in America. It is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, in which 2,403 people died and 1,178 were wounded.
Thousands more lived to fight for years in World War II. Many who survived Pearl Harbor died in later battles.
Some, somehow, lived.
Sam Maynor Jr., who lived in a little house on Mount Gallant Road in Rock Hill, was one of those survivors aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Reid who made it all the way through.
Maynor and his mates had to smash the lock off a mounted machine gun after the sneak attack, because the guy who held the key was on the beach. Maynor fought and shot and watched men he knew on another ship die.
The Reid steamed out of port past burning death with guns blazing. He fought still more at a bunch of battles until the war ended, for four years.
Sam Maynor died Thursday at 92.
The loss is all of ours, because guys like Sam Maynor saved the world.
It is a fact. It is not legend, a myth, but the plain truth that these rangy and lean and rawboned mill-town boys who came from such poverty as having no shoes and no chance to go to school just plain out-willed the rest of the world in a war.
Guys like Sam Maynor saved the human race from itself.
And Maynor – who, like millions of boys, lied about his age to get into that war – might have been the only Pearl Harbor survivor to have his momma write a letter to the president of the United States that raised a stink because her son did not write home from the Navy.
“My grandmother wrote straight to the president, and before you knew it, the captain of the ship was calling my father into his office and ordering my father to write to his mother,” said Mike Maynor, Sam’s son.
“He sure wrote after that – it wasn’t a lot, not long letters, but he wrote to his mother,” said Maynor’s daughter, Jan Maynor Showkeir.
Maynor was in battles at Coral Sea and Casablanca, and his ship went through five typhoons and more. He was gone five long years.
A beauty named Mildred, who worked in a Spindale, N.C., dime store, waited all those five years – comparing the letters she received from Sam to those letters ordered sent to his mother by Franklin Roosevelt.
The couple married after the war and stayed together 60 years until Mildred died.
Sam Maynor got out of the service after all those awful battles and all that death, the American sailors fighting to the death with pistols and rifles as ships sunk under their feet – and somehow still had love in his heart.
This humble and generous tough guy for more than 70 years after that awful day in 1941 helped found a church, Aldersgate United Methodist in Rock Hill – a terrific legacy in itself.
He worked as a brakeman for the old railroad that ran from Marion, N.C., to Charleston – Rock Hill had a railroad depot in those days – then in textile mills.
He spent the last years of his working life as a color mixer at the old Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co.’s Bleachery, alongside a guy nicknamed “Blue Butt.”
Ol’ “Blue Butt” fell rear-first into the blue dye at the Bleachery one time and was “Blue Butt” from that day on and the men all laughed.
Maynor remembered in quiet times that horrible war and all that death that he lived through somehow.
That war was always inside him. For most of his life, Maynor did not talk about the war, about Pearl Harbor. Not to his family or friends. Not to anybody.
Maynor knew Ardrey Hasty from Rock Hill died at Pearl Harbor at age 18. Bill Lovelace of Rock Hill lost a leg that day.
The people who died, and those who were wounded and the survivors, have a special place in the history of this country even if most are not known by anyone but family – if that.
Only late in life did Maynor tell his children and grandchildren, people at church, about the war. He was talked into speaking at schools about Pearl Harbor so students would not have to watch TV or go online – they’d see the real thing.
Maynor would stand at the front of a room and nobody would even cough as the old man spoke.
He was tall and thin and he wore regular clothes. His hands were all leathery. He did not look like Captain America.
Every time, at the end of the speech, those little school kids would give Sam Maynor an ovation.
Because Sam Maynor was a real life hero.